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Contacts between the Austrian and European Parliaments

Parliament’s participation in European Union legislation is not confined to the opinions and findings of the EU Committees of the National and Federal Councils. The members of the Austrian National and Federal Councils also participate in Conferences of Members of Parliament at EU level to which the European Parliament (EP) invites representatives of national parliaments.

Exchanging Arguments, Soliciting Positions and Cultivation of Contacts

These cross-border conferences serve Members to articulate their positions on specific important issues, listen to the arguments of their opposite numbers, solicit support or their own positions and make important contacts. These activities are also gaining more and more importance in view of the subsidiarity control mechanism envisaged by the Treaty of Lisbon.

The conferences also meets the need to cultivate and intensify relations and promote the flow of information among national parliaments and with the European Parliament since the introduction of direct elections to the EP in 1979 meant the de facto end of what were called “double mandates“ (simultaneous membership in the EP and a national parliament).

Conferences at Different Levels

The conferences in question are

  • the Conference of European Committees (COSAC),
  • the Conference of Parliamentary Presidents, and
  • conferences of special committees organised by a national parliament at the time of its EU Presidency
  • conferences to which EP committees invite national parliaments.

As regards the conferences of special committees of the EP, one of the currently 22 standing committees of the EP will invite their counterparts in the national parliaments to a joint sitting or a public hearing. Depending on their agendas, these conferences devote themselves to specific projects or general topics relevant to the European Union.

The Conference of European Committees (COSAC)

The Conference of European Committees (COSAC) is a parliamentary body at EU level. It is composed of representatives of the European Committees of the national parliaments of EU Member States and representatives of the European Parliament. It was founded in response to a conference of Presidents of the Parliaments of EU Member States and the European Parliament that took place in Madrid in May 1989 to strengthen the role of national parliaments through regular meetings.

Exchange of Information and Experience between Members of Parliament

The Conference of Community and European Affairs Committees of Parliaments of the European Union, COSAC – the abbreviation derives from its French designation, “Conférence des Organes spécialisés en Affaires communautaires“ – has proved a most valuable international forum for the exchange of information and experience amongst Members of Parliament. A few years ago the parliaments of candidate countries were given the right to delegate observers to these conferences. COSAC meets every six months in the country holding the EU Presidency.

Each EU member state and the European Parliament are represented by six Members of Parliament, and the candidate countries by three observers each.

The Origin and Competences of COSAC

The Conference of European Committees was established in 1997 by the Protocol of the Amsterdam Treaty “on the role of national parliaments in the European Union“. Accordingly, the Conference of European Committees may, in accordance with Protocol 1 of the Lisbon Treaty, present to the EP, the Council and Commission whatever contribution it may deem appropriate.

  • It promotes the exchange of information and established practices among national parliaments and the European Parliament
  • It may organise interparliamentary conferences on specific subjects and in particular on issues of the Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy including the Common Security and Defence Policy.
  • In recent years the COSAC has devoted special attention to the practical implementation of the subsidiarity principle.